By Ray Nicolini
Mobile-phone users will be able to charge their devices wirelessly for the first time in 2012.
Unlike the current generation of charging "mats," the new technology works at a distance and raises the possibility of a city network quietly charging any cellphone within range.
Fujitsu, the Japanese technology company, has created a system capable of simultaneously charging multiple portable electronic devices such as mobile phones, digital cameras and laptop computers, without the need for cable connections.
Eventually, electric car drivers may also be able to charge their vehicles wirelessly using the same technology, according to Fujitsu, which unveiled a prototype at a conference at Osaka Prefecture University.
The technology works through transmission of electricity using magnetic fields between the charger and the device.
The system enables wireless charging at distances of several metres -- meaning a single charger could serve a home, much as a home Wi-Fi device does -- with the ultimate aim of public "charging spots" on the streets for easy charging round the clock.
Scientists at Fujitsu Laboratories are planning to sell products incorporating the new wireless charging system as early as 2012, but it has not been disclosed how much they would cost.
"This technology paves the way to integrating compact wireless charging functions into mobile phones and enabling multiple portable devices to be charged simultaneously without any restrictions on their position with respect to the charger," the company said in a statement.
The soaring popularity of portable electronic devices, from iPads to e-readers, is expected to spark a boom in wireless recharging technology developments over the coming decade.
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